Children's Health

Child Sleep: Nightmares and Night Terrors

September 11, 2013

Marin Mommies presents a guest article by Marin parent coach, infant/toddler sleep researcher, and family therapist Angelique Millette.

What to do if your little one is waking during the night from a bad dream and refuses to go back to sleep? Or what if your little one refuses to go to sleep at bedtime due to a several nights in a row of bad dreams? And what if your child has been inconsolable upon waking at night but you aren't sure if your child is waking due to a nightmare or a night terror? These are common questions parents have when responding to their little one's nighttime sleep needs


All children have nightmares at some point and as long as children are dreaming they may also have nightmares. Interestingly, even infants dream and according to one landmark study (Roffwarg et. al., 2006) newborns dream more than at any other time in a young person's life. Nightmares are bad dreams and can happen at any point in a toddler or child's life especially so if a child has just had a traumatic event or situation. Several different studies have shown that children may have nightmares following surgery, tooth extraction, and motor vehicle accidents. Nightmares can also begin during periods of developmental change such as the period between 18–21 months and again right before a child's third birthday and fourth birthday. These are periods of individuation, when a child may become more sensitive or emotional as they become more independent.

Nightmares occur during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycles and typically occur in the final stages of sleep, later in the night. This makes nightmares different from night terrors, which typically occur in the first few hours of sleep (see below).

Nightmares are thought to be most common between the ages of 3 and 5 years old but can begin as early as the first year of life. They can be an important way that young children express their fears, anxieties, feelings, and their day-to-day experiences and are typically not a sign of emotional or psychological problems. Some children may become so fearful that they may protest going to sleep or sleeping in their beds at night.

Bedwetting and Child Sleep

July 16, 2013

Marin Mommies presents a guest article by Marin parent coach, infant/toddler sleep researcher, and family therapist Angelique Millette.

Nocturnal enuresis is the medical term for bedwetting, and is common in children. About 15 percent of five-year-olds are wet at night, and by age 12, only three percent of kids still wet the bed (mostly boys). Even so, bedwetting can be very embarrassing for kids, and parents may feel conflicted about how best to proceed. This article will focus on bedwetting as it occurs as a normal part of increasing independence and mastery in children, types of bedwetting, and how best to help your young one to succeed with nighttime bladder mastery. There are two types of nocturnal enuresis, with different kinds of causes:

  • Primary nocturnal enuresis- child has never had nighttime control, and have always wet at least two times a month. Most children who wet the bed have primary enuresis. It is not caused by psychiatric or emotional problems. Causes for primary enuresis include differences in bladder muscles, making too much urine, small bladder, and sleeping too deeply to wake up when the bladder is full, with the most common cause an immaturity of the part of the brain that signals a full bladder and awakens a child.
  • Secondary nocturnal enuresis- much less common and diagnosed when the child was completely dry at night for at least 6 months and then started wetting again. With secondary enuresis, the key is finding out what has changed in the child's life. Secondary enuresis is typically caused by stress such as a new baby sibling, a divorce, a move, or a family death. Secondary enuresis can also be caused by genetics, a urinary tract infection (UTI), and even constipation

A visit to your child's doctor can help you diagnose the reason(s) for secondary enuresis.

Suggestions for eliminating bedwetting

  • Be patient and understanding with your child. Remind your child that it is part of growing up, and remember not to punish your child for bedwetting. One study found that three-fourths of parents punished their children for bedwetting, and can lead to prolonged bedwetting, and/or secondary problems.

Benefits of Infant Massage

June 25, 2013

babyMarin Mommies presents a guest article by Marin certified pediatric massage therapist Tracy Vatcher on the benefits of infant massage.

As parents, most of us are familiar with the lack of sleep associated with caring for an infant. Jack’s family came to me for help because, at two months of age, Jack wasn’t sleeping well and took hours to fall asleep which provided only a short respite before awakening again, often for the rest of the night. Without proper sleep, he was having trouble gaining weight, was crying a lot of the time and his parents were exhausted. Nothing they tried worked.

Then they decided to try infant massage, learned the fundamentals, and started using them at home. His parents noticed that just a few minutes of massage around dinner time calmed him, reduced his crying, and at night helped him to fall asleep more easily. Infant massage is now part of their daily routine and they use it to calm Jack when he is stressed, to provide relief for him when he gets gassy or constipated, and to help him sleep.

Marin Parents Place’s Programs and Services Address Your Family’s Needs

August 1, 2012

Marin Mommies presents a guest article by Rebecca Wood Breen, LCSW, Parents Place Coordinator, Marin County. She highlights some of the programs and services offered to Marin parents by the Parents Place in San Rafael.

Your 2-year-old constantly throws himself on the floor when he doesn’t get what he wants. Your 5-year-old torments her 3-year-old sister. Your 13-year-old won’t speak to her step-father. And you’re so worn out from managing one domestic crisis after another that going to work in the morning seems like a vacation.What can you do?

Parents Place in Marin County can’t take you away from your challenges and problems, but we can help you resolve them and make life better for yourself and your family. We gear all of our programs toward practical, effective, easy-to-implement solutions that are custom-tailored to meet your family’s specific needs. Our range of services includes:

  • Support for expectant and new parents, including a free New Moms’ Support Group, Preparing for Childbirth with Yoga couples workshops, Infant Sleep and Infant Massage workshops, and breastfeeding support. We recognize the importance of support and community during this exciting and challenging transition.

The First Pair

June 27, 2012

Child with glassesMarin Mommies presents a guest article by Marin mom and licensed optician Divina Helene Coffin.

You’ve just learned your child needs to wear glasses. You know your little one will look just adorable in a pair of glasses, but you’re not so sure how you’ll convince them of that.

The key to getting your child to embrace their new look is to find a pair of glasses that fit well, sit comfortably, and look amazing. Make the process of selecting eyewear a fun one by allowing your child to be involved (they’re the ones who’ll be wearing them after all!). Help them to understand that wearing glasses will allow them to see the world more clearly, and that it’s also just one more way to accessorize and allow their individuality to shine much like a necklace or a baseball hat!

Here are some helpful tips on preparing your child for their first pair of glasses:

  • Get them involved. Ask them about their favorite colors and styles and try to find something that meets their preferences. Don’t worry if the color is completely outrageous or won’t flatter their skin tone (slime green anyone?); there’s always a way to work it into things (think case, cleaning cloth, or sport band).

Optimum Oral Health for Children and Teens

April 30, 2012

Teeth brushingGuest contributor and Marin County dentist Dr. Steven McConnell gives parents some tips on optimal oral health for children and teens.

Every parent wants his or her children to have optimum health. Fortunately, in dentistry we now know that optimizing oral heath actually improves our overall health. Although there have been countless articles about the link between oral health and overall health for adults, the reality is that the same holds true for infants, children, and teens as well. When the mouth is optimally healthy we are much more resistant to the numerous bacterial and viral infections that we have the potential to be exposed to every day. Common sense tells us that everything we eat and drink as well as the air we breathe all passes either through the mouth, or nasal passages.

All humans have a population of bacteria that inhabits this area, both good bacteria (important for proper digestion), and bad bacteria (causes gum disease and cavities). When the bad bacteria are allowed to proliferate, the delicate balance between good bacteria and bad bacteria is upset. If the mouth is not in healthy balance, the bad bacteria dominate the mouth, lowering the immune response and making us more susceptible to infection.

Coping Tips for a Light and Bright Holiday Season- Spencer Jacobs M.F.T

November 30, 2011

Marin Mommies presents a guest article by Marin mom and Marriage and Family Therapist Spencer Jacobs.

For many of you the mere mention of THE HOLIDAY SEASON is too much too soon. This season is full of meaning for our culture and holds a wide spectrum of traditions, memories and images for each individual. It can stir up emotions and issues for many of us- even those of us who LOVE the holidays. We’ve all seen countless movies illuminating the highs and lows of Christmas but the expectations of this season can create discomforts that are very real. The bright side is many of these issues can be helped with insight, planning and support. We cannot always control the effects of stress or even it’s root cause, but we can take steps to reduce the impact of stress before it de-rails us and the ones we love most.

Here are a few tips to keep you and your family light and bright this holiday season:

  • Consider your history with the holidays. Do you find yourself feeling low every year at a certain day or time? Will this be the first holiday since the loss of a loved one? Does an annual event leave you rattled each year? Alter traditions that leave you feeling low or stressed. Add new rituals that support your current life and do your best to avoid events that don’t make you feel good.

When Should Children First See the Dentist? First Visit by First Birthday

October 24, 2011

Baby with new teethAt what age should your child have his or her first visit to the dentist? Marin pediatric dentist Dr. Neidre Banakus tells us why it's important to visit the dentist by your child's first birthday in this guest article.

Have you asked yourself, “When should my child have their first dental appointment?” This is a very common question among parents and the answer may surprise you. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and Dr. Banakus recommend “First Visit by First Birthday.”

Why so young?

For children, this is a time of change and development in their world and their teeth are appearing as well. The reason that this visit is crucial is not only to begin a relationship with children to their pediatric dentist, but also to ensure their mouth is healthy and that growth and development are normal.

Good Oral Hygiene Starts at Day One

July 19, 2011

Teeth brushingGuest contributor and Marin dentist Dr. Steven McConnell gives us some tips on oral hygiene for babies, young children, and parents. Good oral health begins at day one, so make sure you get your children on track for a lifetime of healthy habits.

  • Caring for kids starts with caring for yourself, not only because periodontal disease can be contagious, but it is always good to lead by example.
  • For babies be sure to use dental friendly pacifiers and bottle nipples. The classic is the Nuk design.
  • Always avoid putting babies to bed with any bottles as the pooled milk or juice can lead to severe decay.
  • On babies, before teeth are present, use single gauze or thin wash cloth to gently displace bacteria-rich film that sticks to gum ridges. As they get teeth, continue to use gauze or wash cloth. Be sure to use dental-friendly pacifiers and bottle nipples. Never put them to bed with a bottle as the pooled milk or juice can lead to severe decay.
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